The Department of Information Systems Club (DISC) is preparing to hold elections for new officers — online, of course — starting March 21. Meantime, current members and officers are singing the club’s praises, not only for giving them an edge in the job market, but also for the sense of camaraderie it instills.
“The benefits of being a DISC member are the networking and relationship building,” said Jason Hyacinthe, a junior who is pursuing degrees in computer information systems and supply chain management. “Each meeting there is a different, well-known company that comes in to present to DISC, and they are always looking for people to hire. As a member, I am able to learn so much about every company that comes in, what it takes to present myself as the perfect job candidate and how to build a network of contacts to use to my advantage to get the job I want when I graduate. Another benefit of being a member of DISC is getting to know the other members and building relationships with my peers. We are able to help each other with classes, professors, books and encouraging each other in general.”
Founded in 1999, DISC, whose academic adviser is Assistant Professor Gregory Dawson, provides members guidance with career development, leadership, collaboration and community involvement, the so-called “soft skills” that can help a CIS student stand out in a crowded job market.
DISC’s community involvement component, in particular, allows students to see how their knowledge can make a major difference in the lives of people around them.
Erica Bianco Ellis and Victoria Polchinski, both juniors majoring in CIS, are DISC’s co-vice presidents of community service. The club’s community service includes an instruction program at the Tempe Public Library and a computer training class every Wednesday night and occasionally on Saturdays.
“It has been a very fulfilling experience and I especially enjoy the repeat students that I have seen progress over the months,” said Ellis, who leads the library class. “It is a huge time commitment. Occasionally I have volunteers, but basically I have to be available for all of the sessions. A lot of students in the program take a bus (or two) to get to the class, so I feel that canceling is never an option. Whoever takes over from me though, will absolutely love it!”
So, while the students may know their way around computer networks, DISC is providing them with the skills to develop other networks of a far different kind.
Some members of DISC readily admit that they joined the organization to get extra credit, but it soon became obvious that the group could provide wider academic support.
Through DISC, Ellis has developed a network of fellow students who can help when she is having difficulty in a particular class. She, in turn, is more than happy to help others who are struggling in classes in which she is doing well.
Polchinski is grateful for the classroom assistance that DISC members give each other. Before deciding to major in CIS, Polchinski said she had studied interior design and dietetics, giving her an academic background very different from that of her CIS counterparts.
“I joined DISC immediately and everyone in the club was so supportive and helpful in answering all of my questions,” she said. “The members and officers of DISC, along with the CIS department, do a great job of providing students with the resources they need to have a successful college career.”
For Hyacinthe, DISC has motivated him to pursue a career in information systems by providing him “with endless resources, such as other members from whom I receive help and guidance in every area of my education.”
Besides being there for each other, DISC also creates events that further enhance members’ educational experience, said Yonathan Muchacho Vivas, a senior majoring in CIS and SCM. Vivas also is vice president of member instruction for DISC.
“My role consists of presenting club members with topics on career development, technology and other topics not covered in regular classes, as well as preparing ice-breaker activities,” he said. “One of the challenges in my role is being able to engage the club members both during the ice breaker and during the instruction topics. I believe that having a positive attitude and being interested in what you’re presenting is one of the best ways to engage members.”
Ali Bilgrami, a senior, would be graduating in May with his accounting major, but he decided to add CIS. The dual major will take another year, but Bilgrami is clearly happy he's doing it. He's found the educational aspect of the DISC meetings invaluable. “Each meeting has made me more knowledgeable and well informed. It has allowed me to fine tune my plans to reach my future goals,” he said.
Without a doubt, the biggest draw for DISC is the professional opportunities it provides its members. Almost every week, DISC members meet recruiters from a variety of corporations. As president of DISC, T.J. Wey, who will be graduating in May with a degree in CIS and a minor in applied psychology, works with other campus clubs, the IS department, the Business School Council and the Association of Information Systems student chapters to ferret out the best opportunities for DISC members.
Also helping to make sure DISC members don’t miss out on learning about companies making campus visits is Tiffany Shaw, DISC’s vice president of corporate relations and a senior majoring in CIS and accounting.
Shaw and Wey’s efforts do not go unappreciated.
“There have been so many events and company sessions that have helped me narrow down what it is I would like to do when I am finished,” Ellis said. “That is something very hard to know without this exposure. Also, I hopefully will work for one of the companies that has presented at DISC. Meeting and getting to know these companies up close is an invaluable resource to starting a career.”
Branden Lau -- a senior who is pursuing degrees in CIS, SCM and finance -- is vice president of finance for DISC and has scored two different internships thanks to the connections he made through the club. Polchinski credits DISC for her internship at PricewaterhouseCoopers this past summer, “which will help me decide what type of career path I want after graduation.”
“Learning about such a diverse array of opportunities is extremely helpful for understanding what type of future job a DISC member wants to pursue,” Polchinski added. “Members are also able to speak with potential employers during and after the meetings to get more personal questions answered. Ultimately, DISC is a superb tool for professional development, as it allows students to communicate better with potential employers and build relationships with future colleagues.”
As with other DISC members, the club taught Wey and Shaw (left) how to research companies, prepare for interviews and connect with recruiters. But thanks to their roles as officers in DISC, the two also learned valuable leadership skills that they believe will make them even more desirable job candidates.
“Being an officer has led me to become a strong leader, learning new things every day,” Shaw said.
Network of friends
For CIS majors looking to meet corporate recruiters, find jobs and internships, and get academic advice, DISC obviously is the place to be. However, as long-time members soon find out, DISC also is a place to build a network of friends.
“When I first joined DISC, I was a nervous sophomore who had no idea what career path I wanted to go in,” Hyacinthe said. “As time went on I became more involved in DISC activities and meetings, even to the point of delivering speeches in classrooms recruiting other students to DISC. I have made all kinds of lifelong friends from DISC.”
Wey joined DISC as a freshman with the clear focus of meeting industry professionals. It soon became something much more.
“DISC became something I just did on Thursday nights to eat pizza, meet up with friends and learn about companies that were recruiting or had advice to give us,” Wey said. “As my involvement in committees and officer roles increased, I helped grow DISC and got to become the one answering the questions and providing advice to my fellow members and underclassmen.”
With all this to offer, if there are any CIS majors or tech savvy students out there who are not members of DISC, Lau has a simple question for them.
“Why wouldn't you want to meet new people, develop relationships with recruiters who can grant you a job, and have fun with your peers?”